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Sunday, September 21, 2014
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Published: Sunday, 10/31/2004

Elections a lawyer will love

Is this a general election, or an all-Ohio tennis tourney?

A Buckeye resident could get whiplash, trying to follow all the back-and-forth involved with legal challenges to voter registrations.

Just wait. Some cunning politician will argue this all amounts to a statewide Job-Creation Program for, God bless 'em, lawyers.

Until then, Ohio heads are spinning. Although the hearing yesterday to review 900-plus Lucas County registrations was called off (last I checked, anyway), local election officials expected people to show up anyway.

I found elections director Paula Hicks-Hudson in her office early Friday afternoon, her left ear nearly cauliflower as she methodically made her way through 117 voice-mail messages.

Nearly all were from frantic voters, asking about the letter they just got, the one that said the recipient's right to vote was under challenge, "the reason stated as the basis for this challenge [being] that you are unqualified to vote because you are not a resident of the precinct where you can vote."

This would be the result of the Ohio GOP, which challenged 35,000 Ohio registrations last week, based on mailings that, for whatever reasons, came back as "undeliverable." You've got to admire how a purported effort to keep voting clean ends up causing an untidy amount of chaos.

But I suppose, if we're looking for the proverbial hall-full glass, we should be heartened to hear the anger and frustration in so many voters' voices, since we've been bobbing along so complacently in an era when voter turnout is embarrassingly low.

From Ms. Hicks-Hudson's speakerphone, an indignant older woman's voice came crackling out: "I won't be in town for the hearing. I do want to exercise my right to vote, but I do think all this is a little strange."

And this, from a young guy who didn't leave his name: "For something that's so important, you really should be answering your phone."

In fact, in the letter sent to targeted voters, Ms. Hicks-Hudson included the number to the phone that rings straight into her office.

Which is why she had just gulped down four Motrin tablets, the better to deaden the ache along her left neck, where the phone is wedged between her ear and shoulder.

"I'm just trying to figure out what I need to do...."

"Yes, I received a notice of a hearing about not being able to vote, and I have a few questions for you...."

"I work Saturday; so I can't be at the hearing. I must say, I'm not very happy about receiving this just days before the election...."

"I have no idea what's going on. I do have in my hand my voter-registration card...."

In her left hand, Ms. Hicks-Hudson's ball-point pen jotted names and number on a yellow legal pad, her list of calls to return in the evening.

Meanwhile, the fax machine kept humming with irate voter responses, including:

"Please let the board know that if they can prove we don't live here, they can send the complainant to rake the leaves because I'm tired of doing it."



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